Re-appointed Derbyshire County Council Chairman Trevor Ainsworth had to ask councillors Ruth George and Natalie Hoy to ‘treat each other nicely’ as they clashed over the issue at the annual meeting on Wednesday, May 25.
The row started when Councillor George, a former High Peak MP who represents Whaley Bridge for Labour, asked the Conservative Cabinet member for Adult Care why the Branching Out Garden Centre, in Alderbrook, a facility that caters for people with learning disabilities, was closed.
Councillor Hoy insisted the facility was not closed, stating a lack in demand had meant staff had been ‘temporarily redeployed’ to the day centre, however if demand increased in the future they would be moved back.
“I look forward to you publishing a public apology for the unnecessary upset and distress you have caused for the incorrect and misleading information you’re circulating,” she continued.
“Yet again another elected member who crazes Facebook hits with eyes fixed on nothing more than a headline while winning your seat back at Westminster, with no consideration for the hurt and distress you have caused the people of Derbyshire.”
In a statement that was met by the council chamber with gasps of shock and amusement, Coun Hoy told the opposition member to ‘show some compassion and consideration for the people of Derbyshire’, adding that she should ‘try, if possible, to speak the truth’.
Coun George retorted that information she had shared had been taken by the Branching Out Garden Centre’s own Facebook page and had been posted by the staff, adding: “I would request an apology from the executive member for that slanderous declaration.”
Pausing for an applause from the public gallery, she continued: “The Branching Out Garden Centre is closed, it’s not open to the public.
“It has a sign on it to say that it is not open, it is therefore per se, closed – be it temporary or be it permanent, I haven’t said that.”
She went onto accuse the cabinet member of making ‘unfounded allegations’ when she knew ‘absolutely nothing at all’.
Councillor Hoy concluded the argument by stating a colleague had pointed out to her that some ‘childlike taping had been put over the sign’ at the centre that had not been authorised and would be ripped down shortly.
Derbyshire County Council is currently consulting on the future of services for adults with learning disabilities, with a proposal to close eight day centres.
For further information, visit derbyshire.gov.uk